During the week I don’t leave the routes of my routines through my neighborhood. Everything that happens beyond the limits of those tunnels happens beyond me. An alarm wakes me in the morning against my better judgment. Lately I have been stretching to help me wake in a positive mood. I reach my arms toward the drapes and make a kind of capital V with my arms. I roll my palms toward the sky. I wait for a positive feeling to wash over me, and yet it doesn’t really. Instead I unscramble from the fetal position I was sleeping in during the night and force my arms into a shape until the blood starts to flow and then I am ready to make coffee. I brew coffee while I write. And then I drink it while sitting in the light of a SAD lamp, and continue to write.
The rush of caffeine and10,000 lux wide-spectrum light usually gets me functional enough to take a shower and then drive to the Park & Ride at the Methodist church parking lot across from the Kent park. Every morning the same cars are parked in essentially the same spots. There is some random variation of sequence, but the ingredients of the Toyotas, a Lexus, and several makes of Nissan remains the same. I climb into the bus and issue the driver my OrcaCard which logs the transaction, and later I can find the monotonous row of these times on the Sound Transit web site documenting my toing-and-frowing from work.
Nearly the same sequence of people board the bus every day. There is a man in a fisherman’s cap and a heavy sweater with his grey hair tied in a ponytail. He has thick glasses that are transparent but still conceal his eyes. There is a couple who read their Kindles: his Kindle packed in a dark blue sleeve; her Kindle in a red cloth sleeve. I sit in the same seat. After my stop an enormous pretty woman gets on the bus. She smiles at the people down the row, and then sits down and promptly falls asleep. A line of people ordered in the same sequence every single day wait at the Park & Ride before the freeway. The bus enters the freeway and whips through the traffic of cars locked in their routes. We pass the same green drinking water truck every day. I walk from the stop in Seattle to the building where I work and I pass the same workers on the sidewalk on the way to their buildings. Even during the weekend I pass the same people. There is a Vietnam couple who walk at Des Moines Creek Park. There is a man with his Akita with a scarf tied around his neck. The man wears a matching scarf. And so on.
The suburb is in motion but in clockwork gears like the planets around the Sun. Each object travels in predictable patterns organized by gravity and their relationship to each other. When I change my schedule from one contract to another contract, the alignment shifts, and gradually I fall into a new groove.
On a larger scale this motion is informed by the movement of space and the change in the use of vacant lots and repurposed buildings. At my bus stop in Seattle the old mall is going to be torn down and replaced with a new structure. What is there now will pass into what was there, and even what is now there will pass into what was there. Motion contains the dimension of time; time is a dimension of motion. My being a contract worker is an appropriate profession in a landscape that is leased. My position is reflected by the concept of suchness, in a landscape of suchness. I am here for a limited duration. Here is a limited duration. I leave a record that is consumed like someone speaking by himself on a beach describing the particular shape and volume of a single wave. By the time I have delineated the arc of its curve it has long passed and my voice too is drowned in the oncoming rush of the waves that have followed assumed their shapes and broken on the barnacles covered beach stones.
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If someone asks you who you are, you often say, I am whatever I am employed to do. I am a fireman, or a waiter, or a writer. But what if your job is temporary? What are you then? You can’t choose your family, but you can chose your friends. Two possible ways of looking at yourself: you are your parents OR you are who you know.
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In drawing a map of my total region I realized that it was really compartments of distance from where I am. This map could easily be drawn as a network map rather than physical map. Each edge connecting each node is a variable distance of time away but not really spatial distance. In this way, then some places fluctuate depending on the traffic. For instance Seattle can move as close to me as Tacoma or as far away as Kelso. Olympia, Portland, and Bellingham vacillate from near to far.
By making different selection in my jobs and my routes, I live in a different city even though is technically the same place on the map. When I drive to Seattle I drive on a route that passes through rural spaces in South King County. I travel along the sea, and then through lots of timber. I can believe on this drive through some of the densest development in the West that I live in a rural place. The church where I catch the bus is surrounded by dense forest. There are stands of Douglas fir trees. An anthill slowly accumulates across the street. I walk in the green belts and undeveloped patches. I walk along a decommissioned highway that has been turned into a bike trail. The trail passes through stands of cottonwood and a large region set aside by the Seattle City Water Department. The lot contains stands of huge nearly mature second growth fir. I walk in a green belt and bird sanctuary near Lake Fenwick Park under maple and fir trees near the Green Rive sloughs. There is a lush understory there. I walk in parks that thread behind strip malls and planned unit developments. At times I forget that I live in a region of naked asphalt parking lots, hills covered with rickety apartment complexes, strips lined with pawn shops and car lots with improbably low price cars.
This place in turn looks different to my daughter who travels on the route of her bus to school or walks when she wants to visit her friends. For her the grounds of the old elementary school which take me two minutes to pass on my way to somewhere else are for her a ten minute destination and a place dense with the memories of elementary school. Even though we live in the same house, we live in different cities.